Encouraging Sustainable Habits at Wellington

Encouraging Sustainable Habits at Wellington

Joya Elmore P ’36 and Aaron Frim P ’19


Joya Elmore P ’36, director of gardens for environment-based learning, and Aaron Frim ’19, upper school chemistry teacher, sat down to discuss Wellington’s focus on sustainability through the lens of food. 

Passionate advocates for helping students develop sustainability practices, Elmore and Frim’s conversation encourages our community to think about adopting new behaviors in our homes and workplaces.

1. What does sustainability mean?

JE: We are talking about environmental sustainability, right? If we are thinking in basic terms, environmental sustainability is about the ability to maintain a level of use of resources without compromising or destroying the environment or said natural resources in the process.

AF: Living sustainably is an idea that has really begun to enter the mainstream conversation. This is a good thing, and I am so excited to get my students involved in the discussion. It is important for them to understand what this means so that it is more than just a buzzword in popular media and advertisements. Sustainability is living a good life in such a way as to not hurt the chances of future generations doing the same. Condensed down, sustainability is a balance between protecting the environment while ensuring that people, all people, have healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.

JE: If I am completely honest, I struggle with the buzzword of sustainability because of our habitual desire for convenience and the consumption of single-use containers. I feel like I fail at this all the time. How can any of this be sustainable in the future? I do not just want to sustain the status quo; I want to create the opportunity to make something flourish in the future. And that takes a lot of commitment to changing how we do things; of changing our habits. My husband often says, “a hundred years from now, people are going to look back at our consumption of single-use containers and be shocked that we would do that – just throw away a finite resource.” It is mind-blowing to consider this cycle of consumption we have created.

AF: You’re right, this is not an easy task, requiring thought, ingenuity, compassion, and cooperation. This is why it fits in with the Wellington mission of preparing our students for “tomorrow’s world.”

2. Why is sustainability important for Wellington, our planet, and students’ futures?

JE: Yes, this conversation is crucial to all and we’re grateful to be having it with our Wellington community. As Aaron said, it fits perfectly with our mission at Wellington. We must change the way we think and do things and build a foundation for our students to do the same. The need to live sustainably is not something for the future, we must put our words into action today.

AF: And at Wellington, we are doing that. Putting our words into action. Our Wellington values build upon these issues. We are teaching students to question current practices (whether that’s as simple as the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle), and embrace challenges with enthusiasm (such as composting our food waste), while also learning to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instilling these values in our community is fundamental to the health of our planet and students’ futures.

3. What is Wellington doing to implement sustainable practices?

JE: I am so grateful for the dedicated and inspiring work everyone is doing at Wellington. This year, Dr. Terwin made sustainability a pillar of our school. At Wellington, we realize the importance of this conversation and the need to act now. In our gardens, we use all organic gardening methods, which means no harmful chemicals for the earth or our students. On our campus grounds, we try to create habitats for our pollinator friends and even have an apiary, thanks to the work of some upper school students and Mr. Neely P ’30. In our classrooms we teach sustainable practices, whether students are reusing recyclables to make something in art class, learning about seasons, climate change, and habitats, or taking upper school classes on the environment and Mr. Frim’s own sustainability class. And this year, as a school, we began our composting initiative. We partnered with Compost Clubhouse to begin composting as a school. By changing small habits like composting our food waste instead of sending it to the landfill, we are creating positive, sustainable habits that we hope our students develop at home as well.

AF: Seeing the gardens when I walk into school and hearing about the composting efforts, they were a big reason I chose food as the theme for this year’s sustainability class. The students have been investigating and teaching each other about alternative farming methods (aquaponics, organic farming) and the social and environmental impact of food production.

JE: I love that you teach this class and focused this year on food. We are so far removed from our food source and rely so heavily on the convenience of grocery stores to buy what we need, whenever we need it. It made me think of a story from my childhood. My best friend growing up had to do a senior project for his school and he decided to raise a pig and go through the entire process from start to finish – from piglet to bacon. It really changed his life. I grew up vegetarian and am still one today, but I loved how he delved into this experience of knowing his food source. And the coolest thing is that it influenced his future choices and careers. He is a farmer who works on rotational grazing and the benefits of organic feed for his livestock. And your class offers a window into that world of conscientious, thoughtful, and sustainable practices when it comes to our food consumption.

4. What can we, Wellington community members, do to apply sustainability practices to our eating habits?

AF: One more thing we would like to bring to this conversation is a sustainability challenge to YOU, our Wellington community. We hope you join us in developing conscientious, sustainable habits at home. We would like to challenge you to participate in one of the following ways over the next month. Thirty days of consistent work/change has been shown to help foster new habits in our lives.

JE: Thirty days will also allow us to celebrate these changes around Earth Day in April.

AF: The sustainability class helped us create this challenge, including a resource document to help you along the way. So, choose your Living Sustainable challenge below and share your progress with us on social media - #JagsLivingSustainably 

  1. Read a book about food and sustainability. We suggest you get an electronic copy or borrow from the library
  2. Plan a garden (any size) for this spring 
  3. Develop a weekly food plan to minimize food waste 
  4. Consolidate shopping trips to once a week
  5. Eat vegetarian 1xday per week 
  6. Buy locally-sourced foods (including shopping at your local farmers market)
  7. Map your food miles
  8. Reduce the number of times you eat out
  9. Minimize food packaging 
  10. Compost for a month (or more) 
  11. Reduce your water usage when doing the dishes